Star Trek 587: One Small Step

587. One Small Step

FORMULA: 11:59 + First Contact + The Royale + The Sound of Her Voice

WHY WE LIKE IT: The Mars mission stuff.

WHY WE DON'T: The Voyager stuff.

REVIEW: This episode contains considerable flashback material from the 2032 Mars mission, but not considerable enough. They're the best part of the episode! Unlike 11:59, which seemed to have little to do with Star Trek, One Small Step is at least about a working astronaut, an explorer, lost like Voyager. Phil Morris does an excellent job as John Kelly, making us see what has become bog standard in Star Trek (alien ships, anomalies) as if for the first time. His courage under fire is a lot more engaging than Voyager's posh travails. Everything about early space travel is life and death, but Voyager's mission here is something of a lark - unnecessary risk.

The Voyager sections are especially tedious (perhaps in comparison) with old shticks being trotted out for the Nth time. Seven is being difficult, she has to explain her jokes, she starts a lot of sentences with "as a drone...". Oh, and she learns a lesson about humanity. It's boring because we've seen it all before. As a homage to the space pioneers, it only works when we're actually with Kelly. The crew unfortunately has very little to say that's original (as the Doctor freely admits).

And for all the clich├ęd beats, Voyager's crew is pretty badly characterized by the script. Chakotay seems to have the Tom Paris role, suddenly a Mars buff from way back and ready to take risks to bring back a "piece of the past", risks that place the crew in great danger. That's not Chakotay. And while I could believe Seven would bring back Kelly's body after "bonding" with him via his logs, her whispered baseball score at the end is too much. Seven makes too big a leap in her humanity here and if we believe this scene, she can't ever find anything trivial ever again.

And yet, it started out so well, with the stardate typed in just like the mission's date at the very beginning. A show set so far from Earth would seem to have little means to explore human history, but the graviton ellipse isn't a bad way to do it. It's technobabble, but a sensible premise nonetheless. I can't say the same of the "dark matter asteroid" however. I'm no expert, I guess, but I thought asteroids were, for the most part, dark matter already. It's dark matter because it doesn't radiate, right? Here, it comes with a massive electromagnetic field that attracts the ellipse. Does that conform to anything even remotely resembling dark matter? I wouldn't spend more than a sentence on this except that the episode attempts to realistically portray the Mars mission, so it's especially jarring when weird science appears.

LESSON: Not all lost astronauts wind up in a casino.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: A fourth of it I would consider High. The rest is the usual pablum.


Adama said…
Dark matter is named as such mostly because we know its there,but we don't know much about it. Normal asteroids are made of normal matter.
Siskoid said…
From my limited understanding, a non-radiant (unheated) asteroid in the depths of space would be undetectable perhaps except though its gravitic influence (no doubt minimal), so would qualify.

The one on the show was all shimmery. I'm sure it's ridiculous science.
billjac said…
Dark matter is a vague term which can apply to anything that doesn't radiate light. But when most people use it they're talking about the universe's missing mass (we can only see about 10% of the matter we can detect the gravitic effects of) or about the exotic materials most of the missing mass is expected to be. A minority view is that small dim stars and asteroids away from light sources could make up a significant amount of the missing mass.

Voyager's writers seem to be thinking of exotic (hence shimmery) matter, but none of the likely candidates to exist are going to make anything that looks like a rock.
Siskoid said…
Right, they would be akin to neutrinos or something, right? (All my information comes from cursory googling.)
Jeff R. said…
Is this the one where Janeway makes the speech about how the entire human space travel endeavor just simply isn't worth the risk if a single person dies in it? Or is that still in the future...
Siskoid said…
Must be later.
billjac said…
Dark matter candidates usually get split into two categories: hot and cold. The hot ones zip around through the universe like neutrinos. The cold ones can get clumpy, but more dust nebula clumpy than asteroid clumpy.

Now if the script had said "strange matter" they would have been in business, but unfortunately physics has a tradition of cool things with lame names.